I'm going to see Ani DiFranco tonight.
I'm excited. Her music speaks to me on so many levels. Her lyrics, second to none, often trump her musical acumen. And in a way, I think that's why she's so fascinating. Why she's such a powerful musician. Because her words matter. Not only do they matter, but part of her magic, her undeniable charm, Is that the words matter so much that they don't become slaves to the rhythm. Her lyrics, often very personal, make you think, as your parse the meaning from her creative arrangements. She's never lazy. She comes up with new, fresh ways to say common, yet complex things. As an example, here's one of my current favorite passages from her album/song Knuckledown:
There's a dusty old dust storm on Mars they say,
So tonight you can't see it real clear,
I stood in their line anyway,
To look through their telescope,
Looked like a distant ship light,
As seen from a foggy pier,
And I know that I was warned,
Still it was not what I hoped,
Yes I know that I was warned,
Still it was not what I hoped.
Think I'm done gunning
For some imagined bliss,
Just be okay with this
Be okay with this.
Still that starstruck girl is already someone I miss.
Brilliant, no? The message here is clear after a couple listens…the poetry of her words makes me shake my head in admiration. She is definitely a writer's musician.
Slave to the lyrics? That's her secret, I think. Rather than making the lyrics slave to the rhythm, she enslaves the rhythm. More times than not, there are passages in her songs where her voice slows down, speeds up, and forces her lyrics into the song so that her powerful ideas take center stage. And for that reason, it usually takes three or four listens before the melody and the lyrics play nice in my head. But they do, almost always, because she is a master musician in addition to being a master lyricist. And her phraseology, while sometimes initially appearing to fight with the music, becomes an integral counterpoint.
Yeah, I'm really eager to see this show tonight.